10 Tips to Improve Professional Email Communication
With the popularity of texting and online communication channels such as WhatsApp, Messenger, etc. rising, emails have been on the decline, especially among the younger generations. However, there’s one place in which emailing is still highly important and should be prioritized–the workplace.
Whether you are looking for a job, communicating at work or prospecting networking contacts, knowing how to craft an effective professional email is essential if you want to leave a good impression.
To sharpen your email writing skills, follow these 10 professional email etiquette tips:
1. Include a clear, direct subject line
The subject line often determines whether an email is opened and how the recipient responds. Write a brief but accurate description of what the email contains. Examples: "Meeting minutes", "Quick question about your presentation", "Fire drill rescheduled for Thursday", “Marketing Manager interview follow up”.
2. Use proper salutations and sign-offs
Open your business email with a proper, respectful salutation, such as "good morning," "good afternoon," or "hello,” as opposed to "hi" or "hey" (these are acceptable when communicating with your team or colleagues only). End your email with a closing such as "best," "best regards," "sincerely," "thank you,” or another appropriate phrase.
3. Be concise
Unless it’s a formal organizational announcement, emails are meant to be a form of quick communication. They don’t need to be as brief as text messages, but if your email is too wordy, try editing it down.
- Put the most important information first
- Express your needs and goals clearly (what, where, when, why)
- Avoid filler words and phrases (e.g. “as a matter of fact,” “for the most part,” “each and every,” and “at this point in time”)
- Break the text into paragraphs and use bullet points when appropriate
Before you hit send, make sure to proofread and edit your email. You should look for typos, homonyms (e.g. “their” and “they’re”), grammar and punctuation errors. Don't rely on spell-checkers, especially when sending emails from your phone. How embarrassing would it be if your autocorrect changed your “Sorry for the inconvenience”, into “Sorry for the incontinence?”
5. Think twice before hitting “reply all”
Avoid distracting your co-workers or filling their inboxes with emails that are not related to them. Don’t hit "reply all" unless you really think everyone on the list needs to receive the email. For example, when a manager sends an email to all staff introducing a new staff member, informing the team about a promotion, or someone who is leaving the organization, instead of replying all with your welcome, congratulations or farewell message, send it to the person only.
6. Keep it professional
- Content: Remember that emails can be shared quickly and easily. Always keep the tone and content professional.
- Humour: Humour can easily get lost in translation, it's better to leave it out of professional emails unless you know the recipient well.
- Emotions: Never send an email while you are angry or emotional. To avoid unnecessary conflict, take some time to calm down and then speak to the person you need to address face-to-face or over the phone.
- Texting lingo: Avoid acronyms and buzzwords. While you shouldn’t be writing lengthy emails, you should always stick to complete, grammatically-correct sentences and avoid casual abbreviations like “omg”, “lol” and “thx”. Also avoid excessive exclamation marks and emoticons as they may divert email to a spam filter or junk mailbox.
7. Use classic fonts, colours, and sizes
Stick to classic fonts such as Calibri, Arial, Verdana or Times New Roman, point size 11-12, in black or navy. Be consistent when formatting the style, colour and size of your message. If there is any information you need to highlight, use bold or underline the text. Never switch between fonts and sizes and never use ALL CAPS.
8. Don’t forget your out-of-office auto-reply
If you are planning to be away from the office and will not respond to emails, set up a brief auto-reply message letting people know about your absence. The message should state the period you will be away and a backup contact if they have an urgent matter while you are out-of-office.
9. Follow your department’s signature template
Most companies will have a standard email signature format and logo for all employees. If this is the case at your job, make sure to copy it exactly and never add any custom fonts, colours or images. If you are using your personal email for business purposes (sending out job applications, prospecting networking contacts), make sure you sign your name and add your contact information.
Contact Info (phone number and email address.)
10. Use To, CC and BCC properly
The To field is generally for the main recipients of your email.
Use the CC (carbon copy) field when:
- You want someone else to receive a copy of an email, but they aren’t one of the primary recipients
- You want the recipients of the message to know the other people who have been sent the message
The BCC (blind carbon copy) feature allows you to add someone to an email conversation without others knowing. It’s useful when:
- You want someone else to receive an email, but you don’t want the primary recipients of the email to see you’ve sent this other person a copy
- You want to send a copy of an email to a large number of people without exposing their email addresses while avoiding reply-alls
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